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by Dan Carney
When shopping in the family truckster aisle of the automotive supermarket, issues that usually matter when car shopping -- style and handling – literally take a back seat to more practical concerns. The Honda Odyssey does not break that rule, but it bends it enough that making the move to minivan ownership doesn’t have to be as emotionally wrenching as, say, buying life insurance, learning soccer schedules, and starting a college fund.
That is because the Odyssey is about as stylish as a large box on wheels can aspire to be. It is about on par with the Dodge Caravan/Chrysler Town & Country vans’ styling, but is a bit more angular and techno-looking than the Mopar’s flowing, organic appearance. Few other vans in the segment even approach the sugar coating that these vans give the sometime bitter pill of van ownership.
What the Honda does not do as well as the Chrysler products is coddle the occupants in luxury. Leather and faux wood panels are not even optionally available in the Honda. While this is fine with many customers, there is a segment that not only likes leather seats, they appreciate their Kool-Aid-repellent qualities. At least that is the rationalization when coughing up the extra dough for the leather on other vans.Family iconoclasm
The Honda also doesn’t provide the cushy ride found in some of its competitors. What the van does do is handle with a precision and authority unmatched in the class, thanks to its stiffer suspension and independent rear suspension, a class exclusive (aside from the iconoclastic Volkswagen Eurovan, anyway).
2001 Honda OdysseyEnlarge Photo